Insurance study ties legal pot to boost in car crash claims

24 June, 2017, 00:49 | Author: Lorraine Moran
  • Study links legalized pot with increase in car crash claims

"It would be hard to say that marijuana is a definitive factor, lacking a citation, in a significant number of crashes to say that what we're seeing here is a trend", Kenton Brine, president, Northwest Insurance Council, said.

The opposing study, from the Highway Loss Data Institute, showed collision claims increased by 2.7 percent overall in Colorado, Washington and OR compared to nearby states, which researchers tie to full legalization.

The study, which tracks collision claims from 2012 to 2016, found that Colorado had nearly 14 percent more crashes than neighboring states where marijuana was still illegal.

For example, crash reports in Colorado are 14 percent higher than in nearby states where marijuana remains illegal.

A report in 2014 by Colorado's transportation department revealed that 84 out of 864 drivers who were involved in fatal auto accidents tested positive for marijuana, while more than third of 488 fatal crashes involved alcohol.

The House and Senate have stopped considering legislation to legalize recreational pot and instead opted to create a 19-member joint commission to study the situation in states like Washington and Colorado, where it's already legal. It also tracked the same information in control states: Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming, each of which has varying levels of legalization between full prohibition and medical use.

"More drivers admit to using marijuana, and it is showing up more frequently among people involved in crashes", the study said.

Mason Tvert, communication director of the Washington, D.C. -based Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-legalization group, questioned the methodology of the Institute's study.

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The combined effect for the three states was a small but significant nearly three percent, according to the HLDI Vice President Matt Moore.

And collision claims in those states are about 3 percent higher than they would have been without legalization, IIHS says.

The study found that collision claims following legalisation are up 16% in Colorado, 6.2% in Washington and 4.5% in Oregon.

Aydelotte says the study conducted by the Highway Loss Data Institute didn't use the same common denominator that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration uses for its crash deaths (how many billions of miles are traveled in that state). Retail sales began in January 2014 in Colorado and in July 2014 in Washington. They compared these rates to those of eight control states that had not enacted any significant changes in their marijuana laws. OR voters approved legalized recreational marijuana in November 2014, and sales started in October 2015.

The HDLI didn't just look at those three states.

Clearly, more research would help. The results of that one should be ready in 2020, so I hope you don't mind waiting.

"The increased availability of marijuana may be reducing alcohol use in some states", said Santaella-Tenorio.

Zuby added that the findings on cases in Oregon, Washington, and Colorado should provide other states "eyeing legalization pause".

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